Turntable Matinee

by: Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys

Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys' Turntable Matinee couldn't be more aptly named: it's the kind of album that belongs on vinyl, deserving years of the same love scratches, crackles, and pops as have been inflicted on cherished Stax or Sun classics. It's truly a matinee, a relaxing visit to another time and place, ideal for a hot summer afternoon. "Spanish Dagger"'s seductive bossa nova beats and the Byrds-esque "Ruby Jane" conjure up the image of relaxing poolside -- the taste of a cold pilsner coupled with the scent of sunscreen and perspiration. Fans of Big Sandy's dedication to and affection for the "golden age" of American music will be pleased as the veteran utilizes his talents to spotlight a variety of the band's influences, such as classic soul music, which hadn't made such a standout appearance on previous albums. Turntable Matinee incorporates folk-rock, '60s-era Memphis soul, rockabilly, and retro swing, all floating along smooth waves provided by a solid rhythm section (deeply rooted in plunks of an upright bass) and perfectly placed pedal steel. Big Sandy taps traditional country influences in "Lonesome Dollar," with welcome licks on the ol' dobro. But the album's "most unique" award goes to the catchy, saxophone-infused Memphis soul track "Slippin' Away." Its active bass and saxophone medleys could easily have broken onto radio waves during soul's bygone heyday. The album's energy peaks and dips throughout its entirety, beginning and ending with separate but nearly identical (with the exception of length and improvisation) versions of the fiery rockabilly number "Power of the 45" (the title of which introduces and perpetuates the album's vinyl affinity). The tune is addictive, with an intriguing chord progression and catchy shuffle -- a common theme throughout the album. Though clearly worth mention, "Power of the 45" isn't the only song on the album that will give you a lead foot on the highway, but it does stand out from the album's more unhurried crooners, such as "I Know I've Loved You Before" -- a song that's more or less begging for a slow dance. The album's instrumentalism, though radiant as it is, takes a back seat at points in "The Great State of Misery" when Big Sandy's classic storytelling and clever lyricism ride shotgun. "Tears are fallin' tonight as her pen runs dry/The train is calling to bid Missouri good-bye/Seventeen and tired of crying/Doesn't drive, scared of flying/California feels so far away today/From the great state of misery." It's a classy retro tune tinged with twang, canting the tale of a pretty young Midwestern lass yearning for a more exciting life in California, as they often do. Turntable Matinee is another smooth, solid, and catchy tip of the hat from Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys to days unfortunately gone by, a tribute to the vinyl era in the iPod age. ~ Megan Frye

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